Twins protect 6 prospects from Rule 5 Draft
Smeltzer, Garlick outrighted to Triple-A; Barnes, Astudillo DFA'd
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins selected six prospects to their 40-man roster ahead of Friday's 5 p.m. CT deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, headlined by a trio of top-10 organizational prospects in shortstop Royce Lewis (ranked No. 1 by MLB Pipeline), infielder Jose Miranda (No. 8) and right-hander Josh Winder (No. 9).
The club also added three other starting prospects from the high Minors in right-handers Blayne Enlow (No. 15), Cole Sands (No. 19) and Chris Vallimont (No. 21), though Enlow will eventually be placed on the 60-day injured list due to the Tommy John surgery he underwent in June.
Minnesota cleared space on the roster by outrighting left-hander Devin Smeltzer and outfielder Kyle Garlick to Triple-A St. Paul and designating lefty Charlie Barnes and utility man Willians Astudillo for assignment. The roster is currently full at 40 players.
Lewis is well on the path to recovery from the torn right ACL that cost him the entire 2021 season, and he is expected to be healthy for Spring Training, but the 22-year-old former No. 1 overall Draft pick likely won't be in position to impact the Major League roster until the end of '22 at the earliest.
"One year, two years down the road, whenever that opportunity comes for me, I just want to take it and run with it," Lewis said earlier this month. "I'm not going to let it go ever again because this sucks. I don't want to be in this position. I don't want to ever get hurt again, knock on wood."
Miranda and Winder, on the other hand, should play significant roles on the Twins' roster this coming season.
Miranda was the breakout star of the organization in '21, when he slashed .344/.401/.572 across Double-A and Triple-A with 30 homers and 32 doubles in 127 games. The Saints got him looks at first base, second base and third base last season, and Miranda's bat could push him somewhere into the infield picture once the club's uncertainty at shortstop is resolved and there's more clarity with Josh Donaldson's future.
Winder might have found himself in the Twins' rotation toward the end of the '21 season if a right shoulder issue hadn't sidelined him in July. The 25-year-old represented the Twins at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Denver while pitching to a 2.63 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 13 walks in 72 innings across Double-A and Triple-A.
With the addition of Winder and the four other arms, Minnesota's 40-man roster now encompasses every pitcher among the organization's Top 25 prospects according to MLB Pipeline except for four: Simeon Woods Richardson, Matt Canterino and 2021 Draft selections Chase Petty and Steve Hajjar.
That's an indication that the Twins' next wave of pitching is nearing the big league level -- and this will eventually be the first significant group of high-caliber starters to reach the Majors that was acquired and developed by the front office led by president of baseball operations Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine, though it might not arrive in a significant capacity until '23.
"We love that group of pitchers," Falvey said at the General Managers Meetings. "We feel like those guys -- Josh Winder, Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Simeon Woods Richardson, Matt Canterino -- we feel good about all of those arms. Now, some of them dealt with health issues recently, and then add to those guys Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, who we think has good stuff. There are guys that we think could take steps forward."
With starting pitchers still a significant need for the Twins this offseason, only Winder, Duran and Strotman might even be in that mix for innings among that young group come Spring Training and early into the '22 season. But Falvey's philosophy has been that players in the high Minors are generally considered big league options -- particularly those on the 40-man -- and as the '21 season showed, there's no telling when that call might come from the Twins.